Powered Light Sport Aircraft

LSA are supplied nowadays mainly by small companies. The relatively low costs of purchasing, building, and operating manned LSA have proven popular. One suitable model, for example, is the Challenger II produced by Quad City Challenger of Moline, Illinois, United States. It is a two-seat LSA and ultralight trainer with an overhead wing and pusher motor (Fig. 8-1). The long-wing version increases the glide ratio and is the optimum configuration for stable, slow-speed SFAP. Wheeled or float landing gear allow dry-land or amphibious operation, respectively.

The SFAP capability of the Challenger II was field tested over the Ocala National Forest near Deland in central Florida, United States. An experienced pilot flew the LSA, and W.S. Lowe was the co-pilot/photographer. He employed a hand-held Canon A590 IS, 8-megapixel camera, with 4x zoom lens and optical image stabilization. The flightpath was designed to place the sun behind the plane and photographer for oblique views toward ground features of interest (Fig. 8-2). This test flight demonstrated the advantage of manned SFAP for selecting targets of opportunity and positioning the aircraft to best advantage for acquiring suitable photographs.

FIGURE 8-1 Challenger II light-sport aircraft (LSA) for potential small-format aerial photography. (A) Aircraft is light enough for one person to move it on the ground. (B) Overhead wings and large open windows allow good views for the photographer. Photographs ®W.S. Lowe; used here with permission.

FIGURE 8-1 Challenger II light-sport aircraft (LSA) for potential small-format aerial photography. (A) Aircraft is light enough for one person to move it on the ground. (B) Overhead wings and large open windows allow good views for the photographer. Photographs ®W.S. Lowe; used here with permission.

FIGURE 8-2 Oblique view of a glider airpark and sports complex near Pierson in central Florida, United States. Taken from the Challenger II light-sport aircraft at a height of ~340m (~ 1100 feet). Image CW.S. Lowe; used here with permission.

Among the most daring SFAP conducted from manned LSA is the motorized paraglider operated by G. Steinmetz of the United States. His flying machine consists of a large parafoil kite from which he hangs with a small gasoline-powered propeller strapped to his back (Tucker, 2009). The whole contraption weighs less than 45 kg and is highly portable. Steinmetz has flown extensively in Africa and China, although he has suffered some serious crashes that resulted in wrecked aircraft and personal injury (Anonymous, 2008). In spite of his undoubted photographic success, it seems unlikely that many others would follow Steinmetz's lead for this high-risk means of manned SFAP.

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